When George VI was crowned ‘Emperor of India’, many of his ‘subjects’ were in the West Indies. After the abolition of slavery, men and women from poor areas of India were encouraged to move to the Caribbean to take up work on the land. These ‘East Indians’ were tied into contracts for up to 5 years (a process called ‘indentured labour’) and were not free to move around between estates. Between 1838 and 1917 around half a million Indians came and settled across the Caribbean, often living and working in very bad conditions for low wages. Indentured labour in the Caribbean was only abolished in the 1920s.
The end of Empire?
George VI was the last British King to be crowned ‘Emperor of India’. He was on the throne during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The partition created a refugee crisis involving millions, during which thousands lost their lives as violence erupted.